Arts & Entertainment

Restaurant Spotlight: Oriental Star

The vegan Kung Pao Chicken at Oriental Star is as good as an Kung Pao dish made with meat. (Photo: News-Press)
The vegan Kung Pao Chicken at Oriental Star is as good as an Kung Pao dish made with meat. (Photo: News-Press)

Oriental Star is an intimate brick and mortar eatery that stands alone in Alexandria City’s Alexandria Commons strip mall as the only non-franchise dining option on the strip.

The restaurant’s low lighting is offset by hanging lights over every booth, with a few tables towards the back of the dining room and there’s a sushi bar opposite the row of booths.

Cheesy music plays at a low volume over the speakers, which is the only real complaint about Oriental Star’s ambiance. There’s a nice fish tank to the right of the door, though this vegan wonders whether the inhabitants of the aquarium are future dinner or companion animals.

Regardless, Oriental Star has a ton of vegan and vegetarian options in every section of its expansive menu, which is made up of a diverse sushi selection and Chinese and Thai dishes. The restaurant’s menu is pretty standard for Chinese/Thai food – no high-wire, fusion dishes here – but the food is tasty.

Let’s start with the sushi menu. There aren’t a ton of unique or even inventive sushi options on the menu. And every roll isn’t perfect – some come with sticky rice sticking to the outside of the pieces of sushi – but the sushi is good.

Oriental Star has some rolls on its menu that you can’t find at every Asian eatery, like the Shiitake Roll ($3.95) and the Oshinko Roll ($3.95). A bunch of restaurants that do sushi have those options, but not all of them do.

The Shiitake Roll and the Mexican Roll ($4.95) are personal favorites. The Mexican Roll with avocado, jalapeno and cilantro, is another sushi roll that you can find on some, but not all, sushi menus. And it’s a nice blend of earthy, sweet, spicy and savory flavors.

Oriental Star’s appetizer menu has the lowest number of vegan/vegetarian options, though there are a few appetizers like the Agedashi Tofu and Vegetable Tempura that come from the sushi bar. And the options aren’t anything special.

The Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls ($2.70), for example, are average. They aren’t horrible, but they’re nowhere near the level of the Crispy Vegetarian Imperial Rolls at nearby Caphe Banh Mi.

Oriental Star’s entrée menu, again, is very run of the mill for Asian cuisine, but it’s also the most impressive as nearly every dish can be made with mock meat for an additional fee.

The Kung Pao Chicken ($10.95) is delicious with the soy protein they use in the vegan version of the dish. And Oriental Star’s General Tso’s Chicken ($12.95), another standard Chinese food dish, is among the best I’ve ever had.

Oriental Star gets at least one tofu dish right: the General Tso’s Tofu ($9.95). It is the best version of that dish I’ve ever had.

The restaurant also gives great service, though it can be kind of slow at times. The wait staff is very polite and patient when answering questions about the menu. And they have a five mile delivery range, so, they aren’t just a neighborhood carry-out.

Oriental Star has been around since 1990 and, with a great atmosphere, tasty vegan eats and solid service, it will probably be around much longer.

3221 Duke St., Alexandria | 703-370-4100 |